Chiltern Firehouse is the restaurant inside the new hotel with the same name in Marylebone by André Balazs and it’s run by head chef Nuno Mendes. I was sad when I heard he was leaving Bethnal Green’s Viajante and Corner Room but after seeing this new venture, I can understand why he did – it’s pretty amazing.
The hotel wasn’t open yet on our visit but as we walked through the delightful courtyard to get to the restaurant, we got an idea of the grandeur and beauty of the place; the building alone is stunning. Considering it’s only got 26 rooms, it feels massive.
The dining room was packed and had a really lively and buzzy atmosphere. We were seated towards the back of the room at the counter, overlooking the impressive and completely open kitchen. The stools weren’t the most comfortable of things to sit on as we couldn’t fit our gangly legs fully under the counter, but there was so much to look at, I quickly forgot about any discomfort; it was a really exciting space.
We started (as recommended) with two snacks; the crab donuts (£5) which were pleasant and light with a subtle flavour, and the fried chicken (£5) which was divine. They used thigh meat, meaning the chicken remained seriously juicy and anything but dry and it was encased in a crisp, grease-free coating. With a squirt of lemon, it was cracking.
Feeling terribly peckish, the two of us decided to share three starters. The Firehouse Caesar (£9) was the simplest of the three but the flavour was most enjoyable. The lettuce was lightly coated in a creamy and tangy sauce, then topped with crispy chicken skin and Parmesan which helped add some decadence.
The squab (“you know what squab is right?” asked our waiter affectionately) with warm grains, chicory and red currants (£14) was a really tasty plate of food. The pigeon was tender with a crunchy skin and the accompanying grains were really garlicky – they were a great pairing. Then you’d get a sharp burst of flavour from the redcurrants; the whole thing was brilliantly balanced.
My favourite of the bunch was the steak tartare (£11) which was served with all the ingredients neatly piled in a bowl topped with a gooey egg yolk and two spoons. It was a DIY jobby – you had to mix it up yourself which was quite fun. It was served alongside some Melba toast and a really fiery chipotle sauce which had a feisty aftertaste; I loved every mouthful.
For main, my gentleman companion went for the monkfish cooked over pine with puffed barley and fennel (£26). As the perfectly cooked fish had been smoked with the pine, it had a really bold flavour which I imagine wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but we really liked it. The fennel seemed to reign in the smokiness in which was a great touch.
I opted for the chargrilled Ibérico pork with roasted garlic and collard greens (£24). A butter knife would have cut through that pork; served pink, it was superbly tender. It was all very rich but the tangy collard greens helped bring it all together and keep everything well balanced. And what a pretty plate it was too.
We opted for two sides; lettuce hearts and maple-bourbon sweet potato mash (£4 each). The lettuce hearts were crisp and fresh and made for light relief from the richness of both main courses. The sweet potato mash was a funny one as it tasted, rather strongly, of a Piña Colada which was quite bizarre!
For dessert we decided to share the dark chocolate tarte and the citrus tarte (£8 each). The latter promised a sesame sponge and clementine custard but both flavours seemed too distant, if not present at all. The chocolate tarte however was a real belly pleaser. Served with a scoop of hazelnut ice cream it was any chocolate lover’s idea of heaven.
Chiltern Firehouse isn’t a particularly cheap restaurant – we did order a lot of food but with only two bottles of water, the bill came to £144 (including 15% service charge) but I couldn’t help but feel it was worth every penny. It’s a beautiful restaurant, and if you’re into that kind of thing, sitting at the counter overlooking the kitchen makes for an amazing evening. The staff, some wearing white blazers, not only looked immaculate, but they were attentive and friendly too. You really must go now.